Tag Archives: Religion

Book Review: To Be Where You Are – The Latest Book in the Mitford Series

To Be Where You Are

By Jan Karon

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Mitford is a small town tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains. The locals know everyone and everything that goes on in the town. Information spreads faster than the cool mountain breeze of autumn when something good or bad happens to any of the inhabitants.

Like any small town, there are interesting stories of citizens that have been there for generations. They are kind to the new residents, whom they welcome with open arms. Karon shares many of them with her readers.

To Be Where You Are chronicles the lives of several of the families and individuals living in Mitford. One of them is an adorable little girl named Grace Murphy. She is writing and illustrating a book. Not an easy thing for a little girl who is six, but almost seven.

The local vet, Dooley Kavanagh and his wife Lace are up to their eyeballs in happiness and troubles. Like most young couples they are devoted to each other and have less money and time to relax than older couples often do. But they are happy, especially now that they are parents. Lace cannot have children of her own, but they are adopting a four year old boy who needs parents more than anything. Jack will be the son they have prayed for and Dooley and Lace are happier than they ever imagined with him in their lives.

There is a grumpy old man, Avis, who owns the local store. He is gruff on the outside but does everything that he can to help the local farmers. He does this quietly and gracefully, most people not knowing of his good deeds.

Karon writes spiritual books, To Be Where You Are does not deviate from the writing path she has chosen. She also writes books about real people, in real situations that most of us can identify with. That is one of the charming aspects of this series. There are no less than three priests in this book. One is retired, one is currently serving the parish and one has just felt the calling from God to become a man of the cloth. My favorite was the retired one, he seemed to do more work than the other two combined. His on the spot marriage counseling was spot on.

There is more than a smattering of animals that play a big part in the cast of characters. How can you not love a huge bull named Choo Choo? Several dogs and a few cats were additional bright spots I enjoyed.

This was an interesting book. It jumps from character to character, so the first few chapters were a bit confusing for me. Just as I was getting to know a character and situation, they would not show up for several chapters. The names were difficult to remember because the character list is so long. While by the end I had them figured out, the middle was muddled because I had to go back to see who was who.

I loved the ending. It wrapped up all of the story lines with satisfying endings. I anticipated the big surprise (which I will not reveal here – you will have to read the book!) it was not unexpected, but made me happy nonetheless.

I recommend this book to anyone that likes spiritual fiction as well as books that have a large cast of characters. It is heartwarming and charming.

Karon is a best-selling author of many books, including the Mitford Series. This is the fourteenth book in series, highlighting the third generation of Kavanaghs. It is the first one I have read, but I didn’t feel as there were any backstories that I didn’t know. It worked well as a standalone book.

 

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Original Cyn – Great Beach Read

12544074-original-cyn-by-sylvia-dickey-smithOriginal Cyn

By Sylvia Dickey Smith

333 pages

Cynthia Carter is a preacher’s wife. She takes care of him and the parsonage home without questioning his demands. He is a man of God; his flock needs a well-fed, well rested man to make decisions regarding their church business. He needs enough time and energy to tend his flock, so Cynthia understands that he is under pressure and tries to do what he asks. But his demands are getting tiresome. One would think a man of the cloth would be more considerate of his wife. He has gone as far as making Cynthia give up her name “Cyn” because it is unbecoming. She hates being called Cynthia, but bows to the head of her household.

Wilburn demands homemade meals on the table three times a day from his obedient wife. She isn’t allowed to spend money without asking him or have a life of her own. Her only joy in life is her son Justice. Now that he is grown and in college, she can’t even look forward to dinner or daily conversations with him.

Much to Wilburn’s chagrin, Cynthia isn’t involved in much at their church. She faithfully sits in the front row every week as he gives his sermons, but feels out of place in many of the committee meetings. The church has many longtime members with their own opinions about everything and everyone – including Cynthia. She is constantly talked about and compared to the previous preacher’s wife. She is a smart woman and willing to help, but they won’t allow her into their fold. Cynthia has one friend, but doesn’t have much spare time to spend with her with all of the responsibilities she has taking care of Wilburn.

But there are secrets in the congregation. Whispers begin and grow to a roar that cannot be contained. Alliances are broken and betrayals are made. Hatred replaces love as fear threatens to consume the voice of reason, changing lives forever.

Original Cyn is not Sylvia Dickey Smith’s first book, but it is the first one I’ve read. The depth and dimension of her characters pulled me into the story immediately. Coming from a Southern Baptist background, I could see people I’ve known with more than one member of the congregation. I sniffled at more than one part because it was not possible to read this book and not become emotionally invested in the characters and story.

If you are a fan of Barbara Delinsky, you will love Smith’s writing style. I highly recommend this work of fiction that pulls your emotions from anger to sorrow to hope. Smith is a masterful storyteller that writes an easy to read novel that makes the reader think about social issues without being “preachy”. I will be seeking out more of her books.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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